Athletes have been trying to gain a competitive edge over their opponents since the beginning of competitive sports. During the time of the original Olympic Games, Greek participants were said to have used opium to boost their performance. Roman gladiators took opium before their fights to the death to increase their intensity and stave off fatigue. Performance enhancing drugs have always been a part of sports, and will continue to be as long as the human competitive nature exists.
Today, in American professional sports leagues, PEDs are strictly regulated, and athletes are tested frequency to try to make sure everyone is playing on an even level. Now, players must be more creative in the ways they try to gain a competitive edge in order to avoid sanctions from their sports for using illegal substances. This is precisely what Ray Lewis is currently in hot water for, according to an article written by David Epstein and George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated.
According to Sports Illustrated, Ray Lewis contacted a company called Sports with Alternatives to Steroids or S.W.A.T.S., after he torn his triceps muscle earlier in the year and requested recovery aids from S.W.A.T.S. Mitch Ross, one of the two men who run S.W.A.T.S., recorded a phone call Lewis made to to the company on the night he injured his arm and asked for products that would help him get back on the field as fast as possible. Most of the suggested methods to aid Lewis in his recovery were harmless, some say hopeless, and included untested remedies such as; holographic patches, "negatively charged" water, a "beam ray" light bulb and deer antler spray.
The deer antler spray is what has Ray Lewis in trouble. The spray, which Lewis was instructed by Ross to use under his tongue every two hours, contains IGF-1, which acts as a growth hormone and is banned by all major professional sports leagues in America.
The spray, along with the other treatment aids "prescribed" to Ray Lewis by Mitch Ross, are commonly referred to as "quack" treatments, meaning they have no medical evidence backing their effectiveness, and are hardly a new phenomenon. In 1961, while Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were battling head-to-head to pass Babe Ruth's single season homerun record, Mantle became sick with some type of virus and turned to a "quack" treatment to return to the batter's box as quickly as possible. Mantle was injected with a "cure-all" medicine which actually ended up creating an abscess on the slugger's hip, causing him to miss the last two weeks of the 1961 season. He would finish second to Maris in homeruns, and would not break Ruth's record.
As of now Ray Lewis denies ever using the antler spray. The Ravens' vice president of communications, Kevin Byrne, issued this statement from the team: "Ray has been randomly tested for banned substances and has never failed a test. We have never been notified of a failed test. He has never been notified of a failed test."
Dr. Andrew Green, a surgeon at Brown University Hospital who is Board Certified in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, questions the relationship between real treatment and what companies like S.W.A.T.S. are selling, "Is sports medicine a science, something that really pays attention to evidence? Or is it a boutique industry where you have a product and sell it?" Although there is not scientific or medical evidence products like "beam ray" light bulbs or holographic patches aid in athletic performance or not, players will continue to try to find a way to gain a competitive edge, as they always have.